Chapter 4 - Butterflies
It's finally over... The relief flooded through Nick as it finally really hit him that the Millennium tour was indeed a wrap. It had been such an emotionally draining year between the tour and breaking up with Mandy and now that he'd finally reached the end he was thankful. He needed a fresh start and now that he was back home from touring and starting to work on a new album he felt like he'd finally been given that clean slate he so desperately needed. It was weird, but even getting the chance to sleep in his own bed hadn't made the end feel like a reality to him. It took him showing up at the tour wrap up party, surrounded by all the cast and crew of the tour for it to really hit home.
"I'm sad to see it end too Nicky," a female voice cooed into his ear. Nick spun around and inwardly groaned to find one of their dancers Lexi standing behind him wearing a short, curve hugging, red halter dress with a plunging back. Nick had hooked up with her a few times on the tour after his split with Mandy and although it had been great rebound sex, Lexi didn't know how to keep her mouth shut. It wasn't long before everyone from the other guys right down to their sound technicians knew that the two of them had been messing around. Nick preferred to keep his sex life private and hadn't appreciated everyone else knowing his business. He'd immediately cooled it with her, but that didn't stop her from trying for another round every opportunity she could get.
"I'm actually not sad," Nick briskly replied. "I like to keep my eyes focused on the future, not on the past. I'm ready to move on."
"Oh, definitely," Lexi agreed, seeming to forget what she had said just a few moments ago. "Me too. I hope I get to work with you guys again in the future. That would be awesome. So, would you like to dance or something?" She nodded towards the dance floor that was already semi-crowded with people.
"You know I think I see someone I need to say hello to," Nick lied, trying to find a way out to excuse himself. "I'll be right back."
Nick breathed a sigh of relief as he disappeared out of sight. He could already see that Lexi was going to be following him around like a little puppy dog all night and once she got a little alcohol in her... Nick was not looking forward to the result.
"I think I need a drink," he muttered as he approached the bar.
"See, I told you that he wouldn't be interested in me!" Alyssa insisted to Torie from her vantage point across the room. "He seems pretty interested in that blonde chick he's talking to."
Torie focused her attention towards the interaction going on between Lexi and Nick a few yards away and shook her head. "You're wrong. I know Nick. You see the way his eyes keep darting away towards the bar? He's looking for an escape route. He's completely not interested in her. Watch."
Sure enough a few moments later Nick leaned in to say something to the blonde and then started to walk away with a relieved look on his face. Damn... She's good at reading Nick, Alyssa thought to herself.
"Look, he's all alone now. This is your chance to talk to him," Torie prodded, nudging her forward a bit. "Go and introduce yourself."
"By myself?" Alyssa squeaked.
"Of course!" Torie laughed. "You can't expect this relationship to go anywhere with me holding your hand every step of the way. That could get pretty awkward, pretty fast. Go ahead. He won't bite you or anything."
Alyssa sighed as she nervously smoothed out the front of the black Dolce and Gabbana mini dress that Torie had lent her for the occasion. "How do I look?" She felt kind of uncomfortable and not herself in the outfit especially since she was fairly certain that it probably cost more than what she probably earned in a month. She was afraid to even sweat in it.
"Gorgeous. Now get your ass over to that bar before someone else grabs him," Torie advised. "And remember act confident even if you aren't. Confidence is sexy. One more thing..." She paused to grab a glass of champagne off a server's tray that had been walking past them. "Drink this. A little liquid courage never hurt anyone."
Alyssa took the glass and raised it to her lips taking a big gulp. She'd never been much of a drinker, but she supposed that she could use all the help that she could get. "All right. Wish me luck." She took a deep breath and began to walk in the direction of the bar, her heart pounding wildly in her chest with each step.
She tried to remain cool and collected as she approached the bar. She took a sideways glance towards Nick quickly realizing that he was much more attractive in person than he had been in pictures if that was possible. "Hi..." The word was out of her mouth before she even realized she'd said it.
Nick turned his head to see who the high pitched, soft spoken voice belonged to. Standing next to him was a cute petite looking brunette about his own age. She was wearing a short sleeved black dress that was cut low in the back and black high heeled sandals. Her long brown hair was half pulled away from her face while the rest of it hung in loose curls down her back. Nick was fairly certain that he had never seen her before in his life, yet it seemed as if she were familiar with him. "Do I know you from somewhere?" he found himself asking.
Alyssa swallowed hard. "I'm Alyssa... You know? Torie's friend?"
Nick stood there dumbstruck for a moment. This was the girl he had been talking online with for the past few weeks? The one he had convinced himself was a probably a total dog? The girl standing before him was nothing like the sort of girl he had pictured her to be in his head. This girl was actually really cute! He gave her a closer inspection and realized that not only did she have a cute face, but she had quite the nice body to go with it. The short dress that she was wearing gave him a great view of her legs that were impressively long for a shorter girl. She was on the thin side, but with just the right amount of curves. Torie had described her as being just the opposite of Mandy and physically she was just that. Normally Nick wasn't much attracted to dark haired girls, but there was something different about this one.
"You know the one you've been talking to online these past few weeks?" she continued to supply, not quite knowing how to take Nick's stunned silence.
"I know. I just wow... Didn't expect to meet you here," he managed to stammer out awkwardly.
"Yea I know. Torie got Kevin to add us to the guest list or something and I figured I'd surprise you," she explained. "I guess it worked because you seem...surprised."
"Why wouldn't you send me a picture of yourself?" Nick asked suddenly.
Alyssa was a bit taken back by his question. She couldn't quite tell if he was upset or some other kind of unreadable emotion. Maybe he's disappointed by the way I look? she wondered to herself. She just shrugged in response. "I don't know...I just didn't think it was that big of a deal," she explained, choosing her words carefully so that she didn't come across as being insecure in front of Nick.
"I think it is... I mean if you've got it flaunt it, right?"
Before Alyssa could even begin to process what he meant by that she noticed a worried look come across Nick's face. She turned her head in the direction that he was looking and saw the same blonde who had been talking to Nick earlier heading in their direction. "Damn it," he cursed under his breath.
"What's wrong?" she innocently asked.
Nick just rolled his eyes. "Long story. I'll explain later." Seeing that she was coming closer, Nick nervously licked his lips. "Hey, would you mind doing me a favor?"
Alyssa nodded her head. "Sure... What do you need me to do?" She was pretty sure that she'd do just about anything he asked at this point, she was so hypnotized by him.
"Just follow my lead," he instructed, grabbing her arm and pulling her closer to him. Alyssa's heart skipped a beat as she felt their bodies connect and drew a sharp breath inward as she felt his hand reach upwards to cup her chin. Oh my God, she frantically thought to herself. What in the world is he doing? Before she had a chance to think anymore about it his lips were pressing over hers. It wasn't a deep kiss or anything, but Alyssa could practically feel goosebumps growing down her arms. She closed her eyes and lost herself in the moment, her brain not caring to even question why this was happening. A few moments later she felt him pull away and her eyes flew open. Her right hand reached out for the edge of the bar to steady the weak feeling that was growing in her knees. She wanted to say something, anything, but her mouth appeared to be frozen shut.
Nick smiled in satisfaction seeing that his plan had worked just the way he had wanted to. The look on Lexi's face was priceless. Her mouth gaped open and she spun on her heels as she retreated away from him obviously sulking that he had already found himself another companion for the evening. Okay, so maybe it had been a pretty cruel thing to do and maybe it had put Alyssa into a bit of an uncomfortable position, but she hadn't seemed to mind too much. It had given him the perfect opportunity to test the waters a bit with Alyssa and see if there was any chemistry there. Judging on the dazed look still on her face, he was going to guess that the answer was yes. She definitely won brownie points with him for going along with the whole facade in the first place. "Thanks for doing that for me. That was really cool of you."
"N-no problem," Alyssa managed to stutter out. "What was that all about anyway?"
Nick laughed. "I'll tell you the whole story in a second. Let me just get a drink first. Do you want something?" He thought that the least he could do for her was to get her a drink.
"No thanks," she politely declined, gesturing to her still half full glass of champagne in her left hand. "I'm good for the moment."
Nick ordered himself a rum and coke and then led her out the back door of the club where it was quieter and there was an outdoor deck. He sat down at an unoccupied table in the corner and Alyssa flopped down across from him. "I'm sorry for putting you on the spot like that back there," he again apologized.
"That's okay. You really don't have to apologize." Alyssa waved her hand nonchalantly. It wasn't everyday she had hot guys wanting to kiss her. She'd gladly take the opportunity again, even if it had been for ulterior motives.
"That blonde girl I was talking to over there was a dancer on our tour," Nick started to explain. "Me and her sorta had a 'thing' earlier on in the tour and she just hasn't quite accepted the fact that it's been over. I just thought that maybe if she saw me with someone else she'd take the hint."
Alyssa's eyebrows rose at the mention of his "thing" but she didn't comment. She wasn't exactly sure how she felt about being his decoy. Instead of harping on it though she chose to change the subject. "So, I bet you're glad to finally be back home now."
Nick nodded his head. "I'd completely forgotten what it was like to sleep in my own bed. It's great to be back, but I have so much crap to take care of that I've had to neglect while I was on tour. The first few days home are always crazy until I settle back into a routine."
"Torie tells me that you guys aren't getting much of a break either. That you're pretty much jumping right back into the studio to start the next album?"
Again Nick nodded. "Uh huh. We've already started to write and rehearse some new material while we were touring. Management wants us to strike while the iron is hot and all that. We'll get a few weeks off until we hit the studio. We're hoping to get most of it recorded down here, but we may have to fly out to Sweden for a few weeks or New York or LA. I think we're looking at a fall release date."
"That doesn't give you much time to record does it?" Alyssa remarked.
He shrugged. "It'll be tight, but not impossible. We'll just have to push." Nick shifted a little uncomfortably in his chair. He never really liked talking about himself since he felt like that's all he did all the time in interviews. Frankly, he was kind of sick about talking about his career, so he decided to change the subject. "So, enough about me. How have you been?"
Alyssa was both surprised and a little impressed that he seemed genuinely interested in her life. Sadly though she wasn't sure what to tell him. Her life hadn't exactly been boring lately, just she'd been to busy to have anything much interesting happen outside of her internship and speaking with him. "I've been good. I've been working a lot of hours though... I don't think I realized just how much work this internship was going to be, but it's fun. Other than that there's nothing much else." She paused for a second realizing there was something else she could talk about. "Actually my birthday is coming up next week so I'm trying to work with my friends and roommates to plan a little something."
"That's cool. What are you guys planning on doing?" Nick asked.
Alyssa shrugged. "I'm not completely sure yet, but it'll probably be something at Disney because it's just easier that way. We'll probably spend the day at one of the parks and then grab dinner some place on property. Then we'll probably hit up some of the clubs on Pleasure Island. There a few of my friends who are already 21 or over, but most of us are still underage so it's one of the few places we can all get into." She sighed. "One more year."
"So, you're turning 20?"
Alyssa nodded. "It sucks huh? I'm not a huge drinker or anything so that part doesn't bother me too much, but I think it's the getting into bars part that's the worst. A lot of my friends are either of age or have fake IDs and like to go to hang out, but I feel like I hold them back sometimes." Her cheeks flushed. "Not like you probably have that kind of problem."
Nick had to admit that for the most part he didn't. Even though he was still only 20 himself, he'd never really had a problem with anyone telling him that he couldn't do anything he liked. With a few small exceptions he was usually allowed anywhere he wanted and served whatever he liked. "You're right. I don't," he agreed. "But I can see how that could suck. Bars are overrated though anyway. You're not missing a whole lot."
"Thanks for trying to make me feel better. I just want to be able to go out and dance." Alyssa got quiet again, but then a sudden burst of boldness hit her and she just as surprised as Nick probably was at her next suggestion. "Hey, I know this sounds kind of forward and I totally understand if you don't want to, but you're welcome to tag along with us. I mean I know you just got back from touring and Disney probably isn't really your scene, but it'll be fun and Torie will be there too. It would be awesome if you could make it."
Nick sat back against his chair carefully considering her invitation. So far Alyssa seemed like a cool girl and someone worth getting to know, but he wasn't quite sure if he was at the point yet where he was ready to celebrate her birthday and meet her friends. She had also hit the nail right on the head when she'd assumed that Disney was not exactly the coolest place for him to hang out in Florida or the most discreet. He didn't want to hurt her feelings though so he decided to keep the option open that way he had some room to change his mind. "I'll have to see what my schedule is like. Like I said before I've got a million and one things to do now I'm finally home. I just realized though that I don't have your number, so why don't we just exchange numbers and you can keep me posted on what's going on?"
"I'd like that." Alyssa smiled and took her cell phone out of her purse. She was a little disappointed that he didn't immediately give her a yes, but figured that the fact that he was asking for her number was probably a good sign. The two of them exchanged cell phone numbers.
With that step out of the way Alyssa finally began to relax and the topic of conversation changed again to Nick sharing with her some funny stories from the tour. Alyssa listened attentively as she sipped the rest of her champagne. She quickly realized what a good sense of humor he had and within a few minutes the pair was exchanging embarrassing stories like they were old friends. Any hesitation that Alyssa had been plagued with about getting to know him were now gone. The only thing she knew for certain was that she was beginning to fall for him. She just hoped that he felt the same way about her.
As the night wore on and Nick spent more and more time with Alyssa he could feel his attraction for her growing by the minute. It was strange because the things that drew him to her were the sorts of things that he'd never really really experienced before with other girls. There was no denying that she was very different from Mandy or any of the other girls he'd briefly dated. For one thing she was really very down to earth and seemed to have no intentions of having a career in the entertainment business. She wasn't a singer or an actress or a model. She danced, but Nick got the sense that it was more of a hobby to her than an actual career choice. He sort of liked that she was just an average college student. Then there was her modesty. He loved confident women, but being in the entertainment field sometimes he felt like he was constantly surrounded by women that were almost too confident to the point of being intimidating. Maybe it was a little old fashioned, but he liked a girl that didn't put it all out there all at once. Where was the fun in that? Finally, there was that bit of childlike innocence in her eyes.The way she laughed once she'd fully relaxed. Her smile... It was like a breath of fresh air to him. He somehow got the sense that she probably didn't have much relationship experience and at first he could sense her nervousness. Once she'd fully relaxed though he could see what a positive upbeat personality she had. She was cute and not in a sickeningly sweet way. She was so opposite most of the girls in his past that maybe she was exactly the kind of girl he needed.
Of course Nick was not at all ready yet to verbalize his thoughts to her. He'd already learned that it worked out best if he seemed to be emotionally unattached at first. He didn't want to be the one necessarily chasing after her right away. He still wasn't exactly sure where he wanted things to end up with her at the end of the night. Although, he was definitely becoming interested in her he wasn't sure if he wanted to jump into anything too quickly, especially so soon after arriving home. He just wanted to have a good time.
And that was exactly what they were doing at the moment. Even though Alyssa had told him she was not a big drinker he'd managed to persuade her to have another drink or two and he suspected that had been just enough to give her a nice little buzz.
At the moment they were out on the dance floor trying to top one another with funny dance moves. Their dancing had been pretty platonic, but Nick was able to see for himself that Alyssa really knew how to move. He probably shouldn't have been so surprised knowing that she was a dancer, but she'd seen so reserved and shy at first that it was hard to believe it was the same girl.
I wonder how she'd react if I tried to get a bit closer? he wondered. In his experience most girls would be grinding all over him under similar circumstances, but he wasn't so sure about Alyssa. Dare, I find out? he asked himself. He was feeling pretty bold at the moment so he decided that he was going to make his move. He waited until Alyssa was close enough and then seizing his opportunity he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her body close to his. He could feel her body stiffen a bit in surprise underneath his fingertips, but she didn't pull away. All of a sudden Nick became very aware of how close they were and froze for a moment as well. He felt every inch of her against him and was close enough to inhale the scent of her perfume and hair. She smelled awesome like a combination of vanilla and coconut. Before he even realized what he was doing his face was nearing hers, their lips only inches apart...
"Can I cut in?" He heard a familiar voice and felt a hand tap his back jarring him from the moment. He looked up to find Torie standing behind him completely unaware of what she had just interrupted.
He looked at Alyssa as if to ask if it were okay and Alyssa just nodded. "Sure Tor. I guess I can spare a dance for my best friend," he reluctantly agreed.
"Sorry Nick. I wasn't talking about you." Torie flashed him a grin and grabbed Alyssa's arm. "Can we have a moment?"
Nick rolled his eyes at his friend. "Sure. I'll just like go get a drink or something," he muttered as he headed back off in the direction of the bar.
Torie watched him go and as soon as he was out of earshot she started to fire questions at Alyssa. "How are things going? Don't you love him already? And what the hell was that all about just now?"
Alyssa giggled at Torie's impatience. "I think things are going really well. We seem to be having a good time."
Torie raised her eyebrows. "Just a good time? The two of you looked like you were getting pretty cozy there to me?"
Now it was Alyssa's turn to blush. "Okay... So maybe I'm having an amazing time and I'm shocked that he actually seems kind of in to me. Not only is he gorgeous, but he's a lot of fun to be around and a lot more laid back than I thought he'd be. Is that better?"
"I have never met a girl who was so modest in my life. Can't you just gush about him like other girls?" Torie joked.
Alyssa laughed. Part of her really did want to start squealing like one of those annoying girls, but she'd just been disappointed too many times in the past by putting her eggs in one basket before they'd hatched. She wanted to be excited about Nick. She was very attracted to him at this point, but what if it didn't work out for whatever reason? "Sorry to disappoint you Tor. I'm just not that kind of girl. I did sort of invite him to my birthday celebration next week though."
"Oh?" Torie sounded surprised. "Good for you. I wasn't sure if you had the guts to ask him. What did he say?"
"He said that he wasn't sure yet. He had to see what day we decided on and see if he has anything else planned," she reported. "Do you think he'll come?"
"Maybe," Torie vaguely replied. "With Nick you never know. I will tell you that he seems really into you though. By the way was I seeing things before or were you two kissing?"
Again Alyssa's cheeks reddened. "It wasn't what it looked like. I mean we did kiss, but it wasn't like a real kiss or anything. He was trying to get this girl off his back or something, so I just did him the favor."
"And I'm sure that was so difficult for you," Torie teased.
Alyssa playfully smirked. "Well, it was a hard job and I absolutely hated every minute of it, but I felt bad for the poor guy, so I just played along."
"Uh huh..." Torie rolled her eyes in disbelief. "So how was it seriously?"
"Amazing," she admitted. "Not that I have a lot to compare it to you outside of some really bad 'spin the bottle' kisses back in my early high school years and a few other awkward kisses at the end of dates." She wrinkled her nose realizing that it might be weird for Torie to hear those kind of details about Nick. "Are you sure you want to know about these things?"
Torie waved her hand dismissively. "Believe me... I already know way too many personal details about Nick that I'd rather not know. I'll let you know if and when there's a point I don't want to hear anymore. Anyway I hate to ruin the night for you Cinderella, but you're about to turn into a pumpkin. We've got to get going. I've got the early shift tomorrow."
Alyssa inwardly groaned, but knew that it was a good idea to head back to their apartment now. She herself had a pretty long shift tomorrow and would need all the rest she could get. "I'm just going to say goodbye to Nick."
"No problem. I need to say goodbye to Kevin and Kristin. I'll meet you by the door in a few."
Alyssa licked her lips as she spotted Nick near the bar and began to walk towards him, butterflies growing in her stomach. She wondered how things would end up with them for the night. Would he try to kiss her goodnight? It had seemed like for a moment or two he was about to on the dance floor a few minutes ago, but maybe it had just been wishful thinking on her part. Would he want to hang together soon? Would he want to make plans for them to spend more time again?
She finally reached him and tugged lightly on his arm to get his attention. "Torie and I have to leave now."
"Aww... So soon?" Was it her imagination or was there a hint of disappointment in Nick's voice.
"Yea... We've both got busy days ahead of us tomorrow and Torie's got to be in work at like 7 tomorrow morning."
"That sucks... Well, I had a really good time hanging out with you tonight." Nick stepped away from the bar and wrapped his arms around her in a friendly hug. "We'll have to maybe do it again sometime."
He gives great hugs, Alyssa dreamily thought to herself. "Yea definitely... Hopefully you can make it out for my birthday."
"Yea... We'll see about that." He dropped a light kiss on her forehead. "Have a good night."
"You too... Bye." Alyssa gave him one last smile before she turned her back a giddy feeling rising up in her stomach. She knew that she had just told Torie that she wasn't one of those girls to get all gushy and excited about a guy, but deep down inside she had to resist the urge not to jump up and down a bit. You're such a dork, she criticized herself, yet she couldn't stop smiling. Could she really have actually met a guy that had the potential for her to really connnect with? I just hope I don't screw this one up, she told herself.